NAHB Needs Congress to Work Together

Joe Stanton, senior VP of Government Affairs at the National Association of Home Builders, talks to MHN about the impact that divisiveness in Congress could have on home building.

Joe Stanton, senior VP of Government Affairs at the National Association of Home Builders, talks to MHN about the impact that divisiveness in Congress could have on home building.

MHN: Although it’s going to take a little time for the committees to be chaired and we won’t see the president’s budget proposal until January, what at this juncture do you see as the effect that this Republican sweep will be on multifamily?

Stanton: I think we will see an impact starting next week. Certainly Speaker Pelosi is still in charge, but they’ve got a lot on their plate. Whether they do a complete omnibus spending bill or just a continuing resolution, such as the tax extenders, there is a lot that would affect our members, both single-family and multifamily. We are trying to get the [Treasury] Housing Credit Exchange [Program] extended. So with the coming-together of the members starting next week, it’s going to be interesting how they pursue what I think will be a limited agenda. They are supposed to meet next week and then the week after Thanksgiving. The Republicans are going to be coming in and obviously they feel it’s about the economy, jobs and the debt. So for multifamily, single-family, government programs, I think they are going to start looking at spending levels across the board. We may be looking at ’08 numbers.

MHN: What’s going to be on NAHB’s agenda going forward?

Stanton: Number one would be the Debt Commission’s report coming out December 1 and how that would impact us [in areas such as] the mortgage interest deduction, second homes, home equity, the low-income housing tax credit. We’ve seen already through Mr. [Paul] Volcker’s position the suggested elimination of the low-income housing tax credit. There have been several other pieces I’ve seen recommending–either the phase-out or elimination of the LIHTC. I think even more so, the biggest thing out of the box would be GSE reform.

MHN: What do you anticipate there?

Stanton: I’m assuming that at the leadership elections next week maybe they’ll get into some of the committees. Obviously Mr. [Spencer] Baucus would like to be chairman of the Financial Services Committee, and Mr. [Ed] Royce is making a play for that. We’ll have to see how that plays out. The players—Mr. [Scott] Garrett, Mr. [Jeb] Hensarling—whether as a leadership role on a subcommittee for financial services will have an impact on the direction of the reform. I don’t think they’ve mixed words that maybe we spent too much money on bailing them out. Whether their reform is going to be as far-reaching as elimination or public-private, we’ll see how it plays out. And obviously the president’s recommendations will be coming out in January on GSE reform.

The Senate is still Democratically controlled. The administration is Democratic. It’s all going to depend on whether everyone can come toward the middle a little bit and see what they can compromise on. If the tone starts off very divisive, we could be sitting here for two years, not seeing anything get done, which in terms of our members, that might be the death knell. Our guys are already having an awful time getting credit at the banks, as a lot of small businesses are. That’s something we need to make sure that Democrats and Republicans are well aware of.

MHN: Where would be the most negative impact if members of Congress can’t work together and get things through?

Stanton: Specifically to us, what direction they want to go with GSE reform. If they want to take it completely private—or whatever they may come up with—how is that going to affect liquidity? How is that going to affect credit that’s already tight? When we build a house, that’s three jobs we put out there. If this Congress and election is about the debt, economy and jobs, certainly we’re at the forefront. If our guy gets a permit, he can start building and hiring within, literally, days.